Mountain Climbing

I have never been too keen on climbing mountains as sport or personal recreation. My thinking is if God had intended us to hike up a mountain, God would not have created asphalt roads and motorized vehicles. Although I have been known to walk to the top of a mountain ridge or peak for the view, I enjoy the journey down more. I like the brooks and streams and the shade of large old trees. Yet here I was at the end of July, on a day-long tour of the ruins of Pompeii which included climbing to the top of Mount Vesuvius. My first question was how long has it been since the last eruption? (March 17, 1944)  My next question was how high do we have to climb? (1,000 meters) That did not help at all. Fortunately, the tour bus did take the winding, tiny two-lane asphalt road slowly upward to the passenger drop-off point (which needs a better name).

We were handed little paper tickets, told to look for the tour bus in about 90 minutes, and by the way, restrooms were not available. We smiled grimly. Mountain climbing is not straight up. That 1,000 meters up was a zig-zag path of crushed lava and dust. The temperature was a cloudless 96ᴼ. I pressed on. I started up the quiet volcano with my traveling adventurers Bryan and Deacon Enos. By the time we reached the first switchback rest area, I was feeling weary from the long flight, busy morning, and the altitude. I knew it would be best to go back down and find some shade. On the way down I noticed that an ambulance had quietly pulled up and parked beside the trail. Nice touch. Fortunately no one seemed to need the ambulance while we were there. Bryan and Deacon pressed on near the peak. The top of a volcano looks like a rock-strewn mountain with an edge. We reconnected and headed for the air-conditioned bus. We may have dozed off.

More than two million people, counting on an extensive evacuation plan, live in the shadow of Vesuvius today. I took advantage of my time up there to take in the view of mountains and towns in the valley down to the sea. I thought about mountaintop experiences good and bad, of beautiful times and tragedies mixed all together. It is good to know what mountain you are climbing.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Know your challenges. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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